Tag Archives: #dennis2018

Jeremy Strong, Nigel Auchterlounie and me

I have been very lucky to work with some top writers who also turned out to be very decent and supportive people.  They championed me and my work without ever seeing what I had done with their stories.  So this week I decided to share video of The Hundred Mile and Hour Dog with Jeremy Strong and Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief with Nigel Auchterlounie.  This was a bit daunting because whilst I am confident in my own work the last thing you want is for somebody to say they hate what you do and you should stop.
I needn’t have worried.  They both loved what they saw:
“Don’t miss John Kirk’s genius storytelling. He’s brilliant!  John Kirk brings stories to life in an amazing way and encourages children’s reading, writing and listening skills”.

Jeremy Strong

“That was excellent John. Thanks so much for showing me and thanks so much for doing it in the first place!  You had me laughing within the first couple of minutes.  Well done! I loved it!”
Nigel Auchterlounie
It was a great thrill to have the opportunity to tell these stories but I’m even more thrilled that having shared footage of my retellings both authors took the time to watch the films and comment on it.  I’m also glad because whenever I have told the stories I have seen myself as an advocate of the author; a sort of unofficial cheerleader for the books trying to encourage young readers to engage with their titles.
As a storyteller you come to appreciate that some words go further and mean more than others and after a lot of work and a lot of miles travelled these words mean an awful lot to me.

My adventure with Dennis continues! #dennis2018

In March 1951 Dennis the Menace and his dog Gnasher made their first appearance in The Beano.  Dennis, the trouble making school boy who terrorised his arch enemy Walter, proved popular with readers and soon became the Beano’s most famous character and their longest running comic strip.  As the world has changed so too has Dennis and as he approaches 70 years old Dennis, with his trademark black spiky hair and red and black striped jumper, is now more than a comic book hero, he’s a British institution.

In the summer of 2018 Dennis and his Beanotown friends supported The Summer Reading Challenge; a national reading scheme encouraging children to read in the school holidays and I presented Nigel Auchterlounie’s “Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief”.  To date (this blog was written in August 2018) my retelling of the story has been heard by almost 3000 children in public libraries across England.  The response from audiences and librarians has been overwhelming:

“Fantastic, lively, creative and entertaining storytelling.  Brilliant way of encouraging children to get interested in books.” Audience member, Nottingham City Libraries

“It was excellent.  A good balance of performance storytelling, great support for reading and literacy skills development…  The high level of participative activity ensures sustained engagement and enjoyment.”  Librarian, Derby City Libraries

Children have really enjoyed hearing about Dennis, joining his adventures and tackling the challenges of the Chamber of Mischief.  They have left our sessions buzzing about reading and the potential of books.  The response in cyberspace has been equally positive with lots of parents, grandparents and libraries taking to social media to share photographs and feedback using the #dennis2018.  It may have been a long, hot summer but Dennis has made it very enjoyable.

Now, with the kind support of Bonnier Publishing, I am pleased to announce that this storytelling session is to be made available for school assemblies and events.  For the next ten months teachers will be able to introduce the zaniness of Beanotown to their classes as Dennis helps us encourage and inspire a love of reading.

Nigel Auchterlounie’s “Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief” is published by Studio Press and is available through all good bookshops and public libraries.  If you are interested in my retelling of the story I will be visiting Bolton Libraries and participating in the Loogabarooga Festival in Loughborough during October.  If you’d like Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief to visit your school or event contact me.

Working with Rebecca Hutchins #dennis2018

You’ll remember from a very similarly titled blog about my relationship with Dan McGarry, that I met Dan through his wife Gemma, a friend from a past theatre production.  Well to explain how I know Rebecca Hutchins I must first take you back to Bromley and the summer of 2008.

In those days I was still a council temp moonlighting as a drama facilitator.  Through an organisation called Bromley Mytime I became involved in a secondary school transition project in which I ran drama workshops on a double decker bus.  Every day I would work with different groups of 11 year olds and we’d play games around the idea of using public transport safely.  There were a lot of people involved; the Police, the Bus Company and some young volunteers.  One of them was Paul Valentine, then an enthusiastic twenty something.  Paul and I stayed loosely in touch and he assisted me on some workshops before he went off to drama college.  Spin forward a decade and the producer of the same production of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland I met Gemma through recommends me and Mr Barry Evans to stage Wind in the Willows for a Cambridge University.  Its quite an undertaking with both Barry and me calling in favours from old friends to make up the cast.  Remembering Paul I rope him in as Badger and he recommends Rebecca.

Rebecca Hutchins is one half of Cat and Hutch, a children’s theatre company that use fantastic puppets to tell stories.  Watching her during the Wind in the Willows project, I was struck by her ability to work with the very youngest children (not all actors can do this so naturally) and also by her enthusiasm.  I asked her to get involved in delivering storytelling sessions for me and it turns out she is great and has had some really positive feedback from schools.  Up to this point I had only ever approached Rebecca about term time projects but due to unprecedented demand she has agreed to deliver Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief during the summer.

When I first set out to present a Beano story I had an ambitious dream that I would create a presentation which would be toured by three people; Dennis, Minnie and Gnasher if you like.  Bringing Rebecca on board we are indeed triumvirate of storytellers and we are working with some 34 library authorities between June (next week – eek!) and October – as well as libraries I’ve been visiting for five years there are a number of new ones on the list and in some instances it’ll be Dan or Rebecca who have to impress the new authority rather than me.  I am utterly thrilled that this year particularly we have a lady as part of the team and a very talented one at that who’ll no doubt bring a different dynamic to the story.  I am also pleased to be able to continue to offer younger storytellers a platform to hone their skill.

Rebecca Hutchins will be presenting Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief

@ Weymouth Library on 10th August 2018

@ Camden Libraries on 16th August 2018

@ Luton Libraries on 23rd August 2018

(Check the calendar for other dates)

Working with Dan McGarry #dennis2018

Way back in 2005 I was involved in a production of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  The production was based in Cambridgeshire and involved us performing at stately homes and beauty spots across Cambridgeshire and east Anglia.  All these years later I am still in touch with some of those who were involved including Gemma Boaden.  Gemma is amazing.  She is very professional and thoroughly dedicates herself to whatever she puts her mind to and over the years has been a very good friend to me.  Since doing Alice its been my pleasure to drag her into projects including leading a BTEC acting course in Sutton and facilitating presentation workshops in Hertfordshire.  Gemma is now an acting voice coach at Northampton University, mother to two wonderful children and married to Dan McGarry.

Dan McGarry and I obviously met through Gemma.  He has a unique and enviable skill set as an uber-talented actor musician, stand up comedian, presentation coach and storyteller.  Most importantly, he gets my way of working and is happy to do likewise.  Last year Dan helped me deliver presentations of Jeremy Strong’s The Hundred Mile an Hour Dog and this year he’s agreed to tell Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief.  This means that when I am planning and preparing the project I have a sounding board and conspirator and if its not me leading the session I can be 100% confident that the calibre of the presentations will be incredibly high.

Dan McGarry will be presenting Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief

@ Croydon Libraries on 24th July 2018

@ Redbridge Libraries on 2nd August 2018

@ Westminster Libraries on 3rd August 2018

@ Luton Libraries on 23rd August 2018

@ Cambridgeshire Libraries on 30th August 2018

(Check the calendar for other dates)

Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief #dennis2018

I am pleased to announce that I will be telling Nigel Auchterlounie’s Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief this summer.  This isn’t just exciting because it’s Dennis the Menace but because it’s a brand new title being released by Beano Studios and Templar Books in May 2018 and they are entrusting it to me.

Below is a list of presentations which includes libraries and literature festivals.  The eagle eyed will notice that this year I’ll be doing a full week in London with further dates in the East Midlands and more work than ever in the North West.

I am also pleased to announce that Joseph Attenborough will be creating another original composition for the story and I’ll be sharing a poster for the summer created by Dan White on this website soon.

We are still three months away from the first date and there is still a lot of work to be done but I’m hoping that we can deliver something very special for the summer.  To keep up to date on how I get on use the hashtag #dennis2018 when searching for the project.

The Big Malarkey in Hull –  24/6/18

Manchester Libraries – 27-28/6/18

Oldham Libraries – 4/7/18

Sefton Libraries – 5-6/7/18

Wirral Libraries – 9/7/18

St Helens Libraries – 10/7/18

Brentwood Children’s Literary Festival 2018 – 24/7/18

Thurrock Libraries – 25/7/18

Southend Libraries – 25/7/18

Derby City Libraries – 31/7/18

Redbridge Libraries – 2/8/18

Westminster Libraries – 3/8/18

Hackney Libraries – 7/8/18

Brent Libraries – 8-9/8/18

Kensington Libraries – 10/8/18

Cheshire East Libraries – 13-14/8/18

Cheshire West Libraries – 15-16/8/18

Rutland Libraries – 21/8/18

Nottingham City Libraries – 22/8/18

Luton Libraries – 23/8/18

Bexley Libraries – 28/8/18

Trafford Libraries – 15/9/18

Bolton Libraries – 6/10/18